Belfast Telegraph

Paddy Devlin transformed his political outlook through avid reading

Paddy Devlin's vision of forging a non-sectarian future has more relevance today than ever before 

Last Saturday the SDLP, in line with its very successful series of events to mark the 50th anniversary of civil rights, held an event in St Mary's University College, Belfast, to commemorate the political life and work of Paddy Devlin. It was an extraordinary event for a number of reasons - not least because Paddy, although a founding member of the party, was expelled from the SDLP after a huge public row in 1977. It was a belated rapprochement by the party with Paddy's large and colourful political persona.

Isaac Herzog on his visit to Belfast last week

Alban Maginness: There has never been better time to remember contribution the Herzog family made to Belfast 

Last week saw the visit to Belfast of Isaac Herzog, the recently retired leader of the Israeli Labour Party in the Knesset. It was a low-key visit to the city, in which his father, President Chaim Herzog, was born and briefly lived as a child in Cliftonpark Avenue, just off the Cliftonville Road. The house is still standing and used to have a blue plaque honouring Chaim Herzog and his distinguished family.

Austin Currie MP (right) and two colleagues squatting at a house in Caledon in June 1968

Alban Maginness: Promise of civil rights was lost in violence of State response, which in turn begat 30 years of terror 

The Troubles did not begin on October 5, 1968 despite what is now commonly claimed. What began on October 5, 1968 was the bright but shortlived hope of a reformed Northern Ireland. For people at the time, despite the shocking police violence on the streets of Derry, there was a sense of liberation. A political dam had been breached and a surge of optimism had poured out. Maybe it reflected the optimism and spirit of renewal in France and throughout the world in 1968. However, this surge of optimism was not to last for very long.

Mairia Cahill fought a courageous campaign

Alban Maginness: Brave Mairia Cahill has every right to reject empty apology from the Sinn Fein leadership 

It takes a lot of guts to be Mairia Cahill. Most people would run away before they would take on the intimidating power and strength of the provisional republican movement. But she did and, despite all the republican cover-ups and downright intimidation, she has succeeded in proving beyond doubt to the public that she was abused from 1997 to 1998, at the age of 16, by a senior republican.

Rohingya women at a refugee camp

Alban Maginness: Only Aung San Suu Kyi has the moral authority to bring an end to genocide of the Rohingya people 

On August 25, supported by Mairead Maguire, the Nobel Peace laureate, an event entitled Rohingya Genocide Day took place at Belfast City Hall to highlight the appalling suffering of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. The event did not draw much media attention, but symbolised the passionate commitment of local people in the search for justice for a helpless, persecuted Muslim minority.

Peter Robinson (pictured) has been criticised for his views on a united Ireland by Sammy Wilson

Alban Maginness: Peter Robinson deserves all our thanks for doing his bit to smash unionist taboos over Irish unity 

By his recent public statements, Peter Robinson has broken the mould of unionist political debate. Whereas before his ground-breaking and timely comments at both Queen's University - where he has been appointed as an honorary professor - and at the MacGill Summer School at Glenties in Donegal, there was an unspoken and unbreakable consensus within unionism which was in denial about the real prospect of a united Ireland and the question of a border poll in the not-too-distant future.

The Chief Constable has admitted that the recruitment of Catholics into the PSNI is not high enough

Alban Maginness: Policy of 50/50 recruitment was key to Catholics joining the PSNI ... it was political folly to scrap it 

One of the most outstanding and unexpected successes of the Good Friday Agreement was the creation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Despite its controversial RUC predecessor, the PSNI has become a widely accepted and respected police service for the whole community. With its widespread acceptability, there comes a popular legitimacy, which is its real source of strength and an aspect of policing denied to the RUC. The PSNI now polices our society with the consent of the community.

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